WASHINGTON – United Airlines CEO Oscar Muñoz is on a publicity blitz in an effort to make amends after criticism over his initially tepid response to a viral video of a blooded passenger being body slammed then dragged off a flight on Sunday night to make room for an airline employee.
Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, Muñoz said he felt “shame” when he saw the video.
“This will never happen again,” he vowed.
“We are not going to put a law enforcement official onto a plane to take them off … to remove a booked, paid, seated passenger; we can’t do that.”
Muñoz had come under fire for an initial response that many people considered indifferent.
“I think my reaction to most issues is to get the facts and circumstances,” he said in the interview. “My initial words fell short of truly expressing the shame.”
In a tweet sent on Monday, Muñoz had merely apologized for United “having to re-accommodate … customers.”
In an email to United employees on Monday afternoon, he described the passenger, who is a physician, as “disruptive and belligerent.” He also defended the flight crew, saying that “employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this.”
Many people raked Muñoz over the coals on social media, where videos of the incident have gone viral.
Public relations experts say the CEO should have quickly offered an unreserved apology for the incident.
On Tuesday, he released a lengthier statement, offering “my deepest apologies” for “the truly horrific event that occurred.”
United is now struggling to contain fallout from the incident. On Tuesday, the top trending topic on Twitter in the U.S. was #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos, with users suggesting slogans such as “not enough seating, prepare for a beating” and “if you truly want to fly the friendly skies, pick someone else.”
United Continental (UAL) shares, which weathered the storm on Monday, dropped by about 4 percent on Tuesday. United’s stock has lost $225 million in value since the incident, although on Wednesday morning it appeared to be recovering.
Meanwhile, video of the incident was attracting huge attention in China, which is a key growth market for the airline. United was the top trending topic Tuesday on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, attracting more than 100 million views.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blasted United in a television interview on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday morning, calling the airline awful.
“I could fill a book with the complaints I get about United Airlines.”
Christie said he has urged President Donald Trump’s administration to put an end to the practice of bumping passengers. The governor said that the previous day he had sent U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao a letter urging her agency to review federal regulations that govern airlines.